I Am What I Am. So What?

I’m a grafted flower
that didn’t take, a Mexican
without being one,
an American without
feeling like one.

The music from Mexico
makes me feel complete.
The huapangos, rancheras,
the Mexican National Anthem
give me goose bumps, a lump
in my throat and make my feet
tap to the beat, but I feel like
I’m wearing a borrowed hat.
Mexicans look at me as if saying,
“You’re not Mexican!”

The “Star Spangled Banner” also
gives me goose bumps,
a lump in my throat.
Gringos look at me as if saying,
“You’re not American!”
My soul crumples.
My heart has no room
for two countries
as it has no room for two lovers.

Unfortunately, I belong
neither here, nor there.
Not Mexican enough,
not American enough.

I’ll have to say,
“I’m from the border,
from Laredo,
from a strange place
not Mexican nor American,
where at sunset the smell of
fajitas grilled over mesquite
makes my mouth water,
where at a birthday party
we sing `Happy Birthday’
and `Las Mañanitas,’
where we celebrate George Washington’s
birthday without knowing why,
where outsiders get culture
shock and can live here fifty years
and still be outsiders,
where in many places the
green, white and red flag
waves proudly alongside
the red, white and blue.”

I’m displaced like the Río
Grande, once a part of México.
I’m a puppet jerked by the strings
of two cultures that clash. I’m
la mestiza,
la pocha,
la Tex-Mex,
la Mexican-American,
la hyphenated
who lacks her own identity
and struggles to find it,
who no longer wants to
close her eyes to a reality
that strikes her,
that wounds her,
who no longer wants
to bite her tongue,
who in Veracruz defended
the United States with
tooth and nail,
who in Laredo defends
México the same way.

I’m a walking contradiction.
In other words, like Laredo,
I am what I am. So what?